Are you considering the addition of a new pet to share your home with other pets? This question should be answered very carefully because many factors must be considered to prevent the “fur from flying.” Those factors include expenses, species, age and gender differences between animals, socialization history, and background information, breed-specific behaviors, and health issues, amount of living space, and commitment to “make things work.”
The “what’s another mouth to feed?” philosophy may put a major dent in your wallet as the price of everything in our lives has increased. New pet expenses include: the purchase price or adoption fee, veterinary care (shots, examinations, diagnostic evaluations, testing for parasites, purchase of parasite preventives, spay/neutering, microchip, emergency care, medications, treatment for pre-existing health problems (such as heart disease, diabetes, hip dysplasia), providing a quality balanced diet for the life of the pet, purchase of equipment (dog crate, cat carrier, bowls, collar/leash, dog license, baby gates, safe toys, litter box and litter). Other expenses include dog training classes (puppy “kindergarten“, obedience and manners training), professional grooming, pet sitter or dog walker, and boarding a pet at a kennel when planning for vacations.
Before adding another pet to join your household, your already established pet or pets must be up-to date with their inoculations and free of internal parasites. Elderly dogs and cats may be too frail to interact safely with a rambunctious puppy or kitten despite the belief some people have that a younger animal may spark some life into the oldster. Some breeds of dogs (including mixed breeds) have very strong prey drives that may be deadly for small pets that move quickly.
Owners need to be aware of their pet’s body language signals and correctly interpret signs of stress, submission, and aggression that can differ from species to species. If your established pet has special needs, will you be able to focus on him in the presence of a demanding newcomer? An example may be the need to carry an older dog outdoors while a bouncing puppy is under foot nipping you and your old dog.
Another question for you to consider is, will you be able to provide the same quality time to devote to your established pets for play, affectionate interaction, exercise and grooming?
Un-neutered male animals of the same species usually do not tolerate each other. This may be exhibited by territorial marking (spraying of urine) displays of aggressive behavior, and fighting. This may also occur between un-spayed females. Spaying and neutering are strongly advised when males and females live together to prevent unplanned litters.
Do you have enough space in your home to allow each pet to have his own private area for sleeping, eating and relieving himself in peace? In multi-cat homes, it is recommended to have one litter box per cat plus one extra because some cats may bully other cats who may relieve themselves elsewhere in the home.
In multi-dog homes, a crate for each dog is recommended to prevent food squabbles or to protect dogs that must require prescription diets. Crates also serve as sleeping dens and as a “recovery room” following surgery or as a place to isolate a sick animal. A crate is also the safest way to transport pets in vehicles.
Is your yard large enough to accommodate more than one dog? If you don’t have a fenced-in yard, will you be able to walk more than one dog on leash at the same time as well as collect their feces in a “poop” bag and deposit it in an outdoor trashcan? If not, you may have to walk the dogs in shifts if they are too difficult to control together.
If you have come across a potential additional pet, try to obtain information pertaining to the animal’s background (age, breed, medical history, socialization experiences with people and other animals, housebreaking issues, temperament, successful training techniques, and unusual behaviors (such as fear of loud noises, men, or young children). This information may determine if this potential new pet will be a good match for your current pet/s and the human members of the household.
The Humane Society of Carroll County’s website provides a listing with photos, of adoptable dogs and cats along with a description of behavioral traits (shy, friendly, easy-going, high energy level, and need for plenty of exercise, fear of loud noises, not comfortable with children, would benefit from positive obedience training classes).
If a specific dog appears to be a good match, potential adopters are advised to contact the Humane Society to arrange a “meet and greet” with the family’s dog at the shelter. A Humane Society staff member will observe how the dogs interact from studying their body language cues and vocalizations. Owners of the “visiting” dog must bring the dog into the building on a short leash (4 to 6 foot length). No retractable leashes are allowed or dog toys or treats. If the dogs appear to be comfortable together and show no signs of aggression or extreme fear, a good match may be possible.
For more information, visit the Humane Society’s website: www.hscarroll.org or call 410-848-4810 or 410-848-4849.
The next column will provide information regarding how to interpret dog and cat body language signals along with how to introduce new pets into a home with existing pets.
Iris Katz serves as a member of the board of directors and as an educational facilitator for the Humane Society of Carroll County. Her column appears on the third Sunday of the month.